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760 Li
5/10

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Road Test

BMW 7 Series 760 Li

Driven September 2009

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Here at TG, the doctrine to which we hold is that nothing succeeds like excess. So it seems almost heretical to be asking of the BMW 760Li - all 12 cylinders, two turbos, eight forward gears and 544bhp of it - what, exactly, is the point. It's not that the 760Li is a mediocre car. Indeed, at £95,000, if there were much wrong with it then it would be a career-ending catastrophe for the engineers responsible. No, it isn't bad, just mildly baffling. A strange way to deploy some magnificent tech.

I mean, the 760Li is the long-wheelbase seven, the one with more softly leathered lounging space than a branch of DFS, and more rear-seat gadgets than Dixons - albeit rather less vulgar and finished to a higher standard. This is a car to give people in the back a good time. To waft them about with the adaptive suspension controls very much locked in the ‘comfort' position.

So does it really need stomach-pounding performance? Floor the throttle and your passengers will fire abuse at you. Or simply fire you.

It'll hit 62mph in 4.6 seconds. The engine has two turbos and direct injection, so it's more economical (well, a bit) and a lot more powerful than the old V12, and delivers its killer torque from almost no rpm at all. It'd easily be able to cope with just a five-speed transmission, because the torque would cover the gaps. But BMW has fitted eight, apparently because that's more economical. So's not fitting a 6.0-litre V12, chaps.

If the back seats are vacant, you can use the power, switching to ‘sport' and running down twisty roads at speed. But it's no fun. The car can't disguise the struggle it's having in containing its mass and bulk. The chassis feels wooden in sport mode, and the traction control light blinks hectically. The optional active steering (which now operates on all four wheels for fabulous autobahn stability) makes the wheel feel gluey at sub-70mph speed. And with all those choice of gears to choose from, it often dithers.

No, the better strategy is to drive the 760Li at a tiny percentage of its performance. Just tickle the throttle and get all the acceleration you'll need, almost soundlessly. But surely then, the twin-turbo V8 750i is still far, far more than adequate.

Unless you need the armoured version, of course. The weight of that would give the V12 engine something to work against. But that's the wrong sort of excess too.

Paul Horrell

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